Understanding Bees and How to Attract Them in Your Garden

Bees. The buzzing, flying yellow bugs that many of us run away from and hope we don’t get stung. But what would happen if bees disappeared? How bad would things really be?   If you want to know more about the bees and their value to our greater environment, keep reading.  

What role do bees play in our lives? Here are some interesting and fascinating facts about bees from Life Basics Organics.  

Bees Play an Important Role in Nature and Food

  1. Bees pollinate 80% of all flowering plants on Earth.
  2. One single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day.
  3. Bee pollination helps to provide nourishing habitats for animals like birds and other insects.
  4. Bees are major contributors in the floral landscapes we know and love in nature.
Bees are vital to the human food supply; they pollinate 70 of the top 100 human food crops. In fact, 1 in 3 bites of food we eat is derived from plants pollinated by bees. We would starve without them!
  1. Bees pollinate about 75% of fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the U.S.
  2. Did you know almonds are totally dependent on bee pollination? Without bees, we would not have them.
  3. In addition, avocados, apples and cherries are more than 90% dependent upon bee pollination.
  4. As if that wasn’t enough, cucumbers, kiwis and melons are majorly dependent on bee pollination, too.
Bees Make Honey

 

What’s one of the biggest reasons to care about saving the bees? HONEY! No honey bees, we would have no delicious honey. 

Sadly, Modern Agriculture is Killing Bees

Are our nation’s bee populations suffering? Just check out these shocking statistics:

  1. Scientists believe honey bees are dying from pesticides
  2. A third of the 77 million acres of soybean crops use seeds coated in pesticides linked to killing bees
  3. The chemical industry has spent millions on PR campaigns to deny a link between pesticide use and bee deaths
  4. In 1947, there were 6 million honey bee hives in the U.S. Today, there are under 3 million
Bees Have Historical Significance

 

Bees aren’t just a trendy topic from the past five years, they’ve had an important role in history.

  1. Bees have been producing honey from flowering plants for 10-20 million years.
  2. Honey is mentioned in the Vedic texts and Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform writings.
  3. Honey was used in ancient Egyptian kitchens as a sweetening agent and as a tribute or form of payment.
  4. Honey was used for medicinal purposes in American Colonies in the 17th Century.
Bees Are Good for Business

 

  Could bees be your new side hustle?

  1. In 2010, honey bees provided more than $19 billion dollars in added value to the agriculture business.
  2. Commercial beekeeping businesses are commonly family businesses passed down for generations.
  3. $150 million of honey is produced every year in the United States.
People Agree We Need Bees! Bee populations are suffering, and they’re worth saving. Here’s a look at some global organizations who are joining the fight.
  1. The U.S. is phasing out GMOs and bee-killing pesticides in all wildlife refuges by 2016.
  2. Greenpeace has collected more than 500,000 signatures in their petition to save the bees.
  3. Avaaz has collected more than 3 million signatures in their petition to save the bees. Beyond Pesticides works to lead the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides.
  4. The New York City Beekeeping Organization educates and promotes the benefits of beekeeping to the world.
  5. Bee Weaver has been providing chemical-free bees and queens across the country and worldwide for 125 years.
  6. The ABF works in the interest of all beekeepers and those associated with the industry to ensure the future of the honey bee.
  7. Big Dipper Wax makes hand-crafted beeswax candles and donates 10% of net profits to organizations devoted to promoting sustainable beekeeping.
  8. TakePart.com has dedicated a campaign to the health, well-being and restoration of the bee population.
  9. The good folks at @beeraw work to help save endangered bees and promote crucial-to-the-planet sustainability.
  10. The @vanishingbees documentary was created to reveal the shocking truth behind the declining bee population.

 

What are the Importance of Bees?  

Now that you know some fun facts about bees, here are 7 very important reasons bees matter from Buzz About Bees.  

  1. Bees are Crucial for Pollination
Bees are beneficial because of their pollination abilities, providing food in the form of fruits, berries, nuts, leaves, roots and seeds. For humans, most of our diet relies on bees and other pollinators for cross pollination. Bees help to ensure that seeds set (so that a portion can be gathered for sowing to produce a crop the following year), and this is important even for leaf crops such as some brassicas like kale. Many culinary herbs are enjoyed for their leaves and seeds. For example, fennel, is a delicious herb pollinated by bees.  We use the whole plant: the leaves, the seeds and even the pollen are used in cooking.
  1. Bees Complete the Food Webs
What is often ignored is that bees also pollinate foods eaten by other animals and birds. Birds and mammals may rely on berries, seeds and some fruits and nuts, but some domesticated animals benefit from pollination too; cows, for example, eat alfalfa which is pollinated by bees (leafcutter beespecies are especially effective); bees play a vital role in the whole food chain!
  1. Bees Add a Financial Contribution to Society
In 2010, it was estimated that bees contribute $40 billion per year. According to the American Beekeeping Federation, honey bees contribute $15 billion to U.S. crop production alone.  Honey bees are vital for crops such as almonds. What is not easy to quantify is the fact that there are also many wild pollinators including bees, helping with the important task of pollination. One estimate was that pollination by wild bees contributes an average $3,251 per hectare per year to crop production. The study suggested that 2% of wild bee species – the most common types – fertilize about 80% of bee-pollinated crops worldwide. In tandem with pollination, the beekeeping industry provides an income for beekeepers and their families, as well as an income for suppliers of beekeeping equipment, and goods and services people want to buy (goods like honey and wax, as well as pollination services).
  1. Bees Benefit Biodiversity
Along with the fact that pollination is important for food production, bees contribute greatly to the countryside, to gardens and general enrichment of landscapes. Bees are therefore beneficial to the environment as a whole. They pollinate wild flowers, thus enhancing biodiversity and beauty in landscapes and gardens.  
  1. Trees Need Bees
It is not only flowers and food crops that are pollinated by bees, but many trees are pollinated by bees (and other insects). Trees in turn, support much wildlife, help to stabilize soil structure and landscapes, and are the lungs of the earth! Horse chestnuts, rowans, Hawthorne, whitebeam, wayfaring tree, hazel, holly, alder, the majestic native limes, pussy willow and fruit trees: cherry, pear, plum, quince and apple are just some examples.
  1. Bees Help Sustenance Farmers
Bees help people and communities, especially in developing countries.  An international organization called Bees for Development helps communities to earn a sustainable living and pollinate food crops through beekeeping.
  1. Bees Help Humanity
Some of the practical ways in which bees may help communities in developing countries are somewhat more unusual.  For example, bees are helping to save elephantsand protect people in Africa, by reducing human-elephant conflict.

 

How to Attract Bees to Your Garden

If you want to help pollination and attract bees, plant these in your garden:

  • Alyssum
  • Agastache (anise hyssop)
  • Asclepias (butterfly weed)
  • Aster
  • Echinacea (coneflower)
  • Geranium (cranesbill)
  • Monarda (bee balm)
  • Papaver (poppies)
  • Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan)
  • Trifolium (clover)
Planting Tips: Single flowers, ones with one ring of petals, provide more nectar and pollen than double flowers, in which extra petals have replaced pollen-laden anthers. Double flowers also make it more difficult for bees to reach the inner flower parts.

 

Help Save the Bees! Bees play a very important role to our planet, humanity, food and life in general. If you want to help bees thrive, try planting plants that attract them to help increase pollination. Check out our other blog posts for a variety of information on gardening and visit your local SummerWinds Nursery for products and gardening help!

About SummerWinds Nursery: SummerWinds Garden Centers is a leading high-end retailer of garden and nursery products. Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, SummerWinds operates retail nurseries in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, and in Silicon Valley, California, making it one of the largest independent retail nursery companies in the west. SummerWinds appeals to both the serious and casual gardeners, with a broad selection of premium gardening products and a friendly and knowledgeable staff. www.summerwindsnursery.com